Hey Universe! I’m not impressed!

Logarhitmic radial photo of the universe by pablo budassi 9MFK
G’day, great to have you back again. Did you see that video showing how big the Universe is? Wow, pretty awesome huh?

After watching that video you know what conclusion I came to?

I’m not that impressed.

I don’t mean I’m not impressed in that ‘I’ve seen bigger’ kind of way. I know that kind of look (don’t ask). No, I mean I’m not that impressed in the ‘I just don’t get it, so leave me alone my brain hurts’ kind of way.

Now I can do the whole, wow that was cool kind of response when I watch that video and then move on to the next thing on my mind as well as anyone can. But this time I decided not to.

I said to myself – now Brett, you owe it to yourself as a citizen of the Universe to at least spend a little time trying to get your brain around the enormity of that freakin’ thing.

So I tried. I sat down, took a deep breath and tried as hard as I could to understand it, to ‘know’ it.

Well maybe not ‘know’ it in the sense that I ‘know’ that 2 + 2 = 4 but perhaps in the sense that I ‘know’ that the Earth is spinning at 1,675 kilometers per hour (that’s 465 meters per second people! – see I just moved half a kilometer in the time you took to read this).

So I sorta ‘know’ that fact ’cause I’ve seen animated .gifs showing it.
Rotating earth

It’s not because I really ‘know’ it, I just choose to accept it and I do my best to get my head around what that actually means.

I sorta ‘know’ what it means. I’ve traveled fast in airplanes before so I get the gist of speed (a 747-400’s top speed is around 920 km/h or about 55% the speed of Earth’s spin at the equator).

So when it comes to how awesomely big the Universe is I ‘know’ it because I’ve seen video’s like the one I posted.

I ‘know’ space, I see it all around me. For example, I’m 195cm tall (let’s call it 2 meters) and being that tall means that at sea level I can see the Earth for a whopping 5.1km before the horizon drops away (sorry if you’re vertically challenged, you see a little less).

Now I’ve traveled lots in my life and have done plenty of 5km trips. So when I visualise in my mind the distance to the horizon, I get it, I mean I ‘know’ it. My mind can grasp that.

I hear you, 5 kilometers isn’t very far and you’re right. But I’m trying to form a clarity in my mind of the space of that distance. I’ve physically experienced that distance so it is a meaningful concept to my brain. 5 kilometers is the distance covered to cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge 4.35 times. I ‘know’ that distance.

Sydney Harbour Bridge from Circular Quay

Now when I think about space, you know, that stuff you see when you look up at night (especially away from city lights) that meaningful concept that I had in my brain previously does its utmost to work its magic and help me to ‘know’ (I mean the 2+2=4 or crossing the bridge a few times kinda ‘know’).

“So space, you big colorful twinkling thing you, how’s it going?” I ask this as I look up at the night sky. Space doesn’t answer. She’s ignorant of me I guess. I mean, I’m just this little tiny speck after all. But I shrug my shoulders and say, bugger it, I need to know more. So I persist.

“Hey, how far away are you?” I try a different tact to get her attention. All those twinkling stars taunting and teasing me, saying ‘look at me, look at me’ and I do, but they don’t answer my question. I still don’t know how far am I really seeing when I look up.

Sparkling Ribbon of Stars — The Southern Milky Way over La SillaI asked myself the question, if 5 kilometers is the farthest distance that a person can see to the horizon of our planet what is the farthest that a person can see (unassisted) into space?

When we look up and see those twinkling stars how far are the farthest away?

So I did what I had to do, I dropped my head in recognition of the enormity of the question I was asking her. Since she wouldn’t give me an answer I did what any sane person would do.

 

I Googled.

 

Google - How far can the eye see into space

 

 

 

 

So what did I find?

Google answer - how far can the eye see into space

 

 

Did you see that?

2.5 million light years!

Wow, that sounds like a big number doesn’t it? I mean 2.5 by itself is not a big number. Like 2.5 centimeters is about 1 inch, not so big. But 2.5 million inches sounds alot.

So Google says Andromeda is 2.5 million light years away, how far is that? I mean really, how far? I was determined not to flick this answer off. So I tried my best to ‘know’ the answer.

To start with I needed to ‘know’ what a million was:

Easy I said – a 1 with 6 zero’s after it. (see how clever I can be sometimes)

OK smarty pants, whats a light year? Oh-O, hello Google….

Google answer - how far is a light year in km

 

 

 

 

Ladies & gentlemen your amazing sense of sight can see for at least……..

 

23,651,826,181,452,000,000,000 kilometers! (that’s quintillions folks)

Now that’s 4,800,000,000,000,000,000 (4.8 quintillion) trips to the horizon and back. Phew, makes my head hurt just thinking about it.

So if the whole point of this was to try and ‘know’ the the size of the Universe well, I’m afraid I’m off to a bad start.

You see, I don’t know about you but if I can borrow the all time classic line, for I am truly ‘Lost in Space’ because ‘that does not compute’. What do you think robot?


So I’m sitting there in stark realization that I’m already a long way from being able to ‘know’ the Universe because I’m only out as far as Andromeda and already I feel totally inadequate in my ability to ‘know’ that distance.

Do you want to know how big the Universe is?

Well the farthest we can see unassisted is pretty much 24 with 18 zero’s after it, but that is nothing, I mean nothing, compared to the whole (observable) Universe.

You see the (observable) Universe as far as size is concerned is well, freakin’ huge! Look at this number from Google:

Google answer - the size of the universe

OK, let me leave you with this folks:

Me = 0.002 kilometers

Horizon = 5 kilometers

Earth Circumference = 40,000 kilometers

Moon = 363,000 kilometers (at perigee – tonight 12th July 2014 – go look)

Sun = 150,000,000 kilometers

Andromeda = 23,651,826,181,452,000,000,000 kilometers (24 quintillion)

Universe =  870,387,203,477,433,600,000,000,000 kilometers (870 septillion)

So when I say “Hey Universe, I’m not impressed.” I mean it. My brain cannot fathom the enormity of what you truly are. Your truth, well I just cannot form an appropriate impression of it in my brain.

I’m sorry to tell you that Universe. Please don’t be offended, you are still one of my all time favorite things in well the universe.

However, you’re just so big. So I will remain forever in awe of your awesomeness but if you don’t mind, I might just try to think about the Universe within for a little while. Maybe that will make more sense. More thoughts perhaps for another day somewhere in Brett’s Future.

May the Universe be in you,

Brett

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